The day after I had the opportunity to watch the screening of the new live-action “Beauty and the Beast” I got to attend the press conference.
The ballroom was beautiful at the Montage hotel. Chandeliers giving off a warm glow, and a backdrop of red roses behind French provincial cream colored couches. It was lovely. Alan Mencken came out first and played a medley of the songs he wrote for “Beauty and the Beast” on a baby grand in front of the stage. That, in itself was a treat, but when Josh Gad and Luke Evans joined him for a live version of “Gaston” every phone in the audience went up!
After everyone calmed down and they took a few minutes to regroup, the stage filled up. Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Plumette), Josh Gad (LeFou), Luke Evans (Gaston), Emma Watson (Belle), Dan Stevens (Beast), Director Bill Condon, Audra McDonald (Garderobe) and Composer Alan Menken came in and sat down.
They all discussed the trepidation with taking an animated classic and making it into a new live-action film. Director Bill Condon talked about after he got over the terror of jumping into this project, that “there are questions maybe you never asked before that you want to know about.” Which ended up turning into more backstory behind Belle and her father Maurice. Alan Menken chimed in with writing new songs that explain more of Beasts backstory as well.
Audra answered the question about being a mother and how she enjoyed this movie. “So knowing full well that Emma was going to make sure that Belle was somebody who was independent, who was strong, who was educated, who was sticking up for girls and women, and who does all the rescuing in the film. That’s why I knew it was going to be important for me to be a part of and for my kids to see.” This sparked Emma Watson to resonate about how Paige O’Hara’s Belle in the original animated feature inspired her. Even if she didn’t understand at such a young age, how she was inspired.
There was a lovely exchange with Dan Stevens (Beast) and his dancing in stilts and Emma trusting him while practicing. Dancing in stilts? His guy really knows how to dance!
Luke Wilson spoke about how villainous Gaston is. The characteristic of a true villain, according to Evans, is he doesn’t start out as a villain. Gaston starts out as the village hero, fresh from the war, then the cracks start to show. The one thing I found interesting that I hadn’t thought of, Luke mentions that Gaston isn’t a typical Disney villain. He doesn’t have magic or a book of spells, he’s just a man… A very jealous man.
But Josh Gad, just as in the film, stole the show. Apparently he had the toughest time riding the horse. He explained his horse was a cold-blooded killer, “he ran through multiple extras in the village, ran around – I didn’t even know it was possible – but ran through these like pillars around, up and back again. I heard “cut” and I heard laughing, and the laughter was coming from the horse’s trainer, and he came up to me and he goes, “I’m so sorry. I’ve never seen this happen before.”
Gugu spoke about becoming the character of a feather duster. How fun and joyful it was play and twirling around on the Disney stage during the transformation. Getting to play with the star-studded cast was sheer joy.
They wrapped up the Q&A with the publicity that has been swirling around the character of Le Fou. What was the big deal with the up roar of an openly gay character? Director Condon answered beautifully, “what is this movie about? What has this story always been about? For 300 years it’s about looking closer, going deeper, you know, accepting people for who they really are, and in a very Disney way we are including everybody. I think this movie is for everybody, and on the screen you’ll see everybody, and that was important to me, I think to all of us.”
On that note, I hope everybody does go to see “Beauty and the Beast.” It’s a beautiful, magical, inclusive film!
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